Kaleidoscope (Interactive Synaesthesia Project) Review—Psychedelic
I truly believe that Minis developers are being sadistic. For example, it can be argued that the SNK arcade classic Minis are difficult by design, but the developers had the ability, if they wanted to, to tone down the difficulty instead of retaining the same quarter-hungry model of the 80s. And, I was supposed to review The Impossible Game, but, for the love of the universe, I couldn’t get past Level 1. For days, I retried, grinding, even. Every time I failed, my patience wore thinner and thinner, until I finally gave up reviewing The Impossible Game entirely.
So, I decided to review Alpha Mission instead. It turned out that’s a damn difficult game, also. I could conclude that I chose death by drowning (Alpha Mission) instead of crucifixion (The Impossible Game). Now, I am faced with Kaleidoscope, a “difficult” game, too. Nobody knew what this game was all about when it first appeared. It just popped out of the PlayStation Blog as a PS Plus freebie. At first, I was a bit apprehensive to review the game, since I had a bad first date with iSquared Games because of their abhorrent Left to Die in Zombhai. Kaleidoscope is the exact opposite of Zombhai, though, the latter being under-designed and having chosen a milked-to-the-bone theme (zombie apocalypse). The former, in contrast, is a game that is truly an “art” form.
While The Impossible Game is minimalist in its approach, Kaleidoscope goes all out. Colors, lines, music, spheres, lights crowd the PSP screen; it’s madness. The music is organic with the graphics, like seeing sound waves move. Based on iSquared Games’ rather impressive game description, it is what they wanted to achieve: to let the masses experience the gifted people’s ability to “see” sound and “hear” movements. Mission accomplished!
The game does not document what you have to do in it. You must discover it on your own. This is a puzzle game that tries to test your ability to understand things and then pushes you to work hard for it. Simple one-sentence instructions are given every level, as well as the documentation of the buttons required for interacting with the game. The levels are all radically different from each other, so as you progress, you must abandon what you learned from the previous levels.
Kaleidoscope also is heavily influenced by Anastasia’s “back to the beginning with you” game design. It is understandable for iSquared to have employed such a mechanic, since it is rightfully fitting for this game (as well as The Impossible Game), unlike in the case of Legend of Robot. You start with a 5-minute time constraint to finish the game, and if you fail (which you will), you start back at the first level. But don’t worry; your accumulated points (or, as the game refers to them, XP) convert into additional time for your time limit. Rinse and repeat.
We’ve seen how PSN users rate Minis, and their collective ratings do not necessarily reflect the actual quality of the games (or, at least, even match up with our reviewers’ opinions). As of this writing, Kaleidoscope has a shockingly low 3 stars in the PS Store. Nothing against PS Plus subscribers, but they are awfully, offensively wrong. Granted, they got this game for free, so they probably didn’t want to spend time learning the game. Besides, it’s a game. Why work hard for it, right? *wink*
To be fair to the impatient, Kaleidoscope is hard to play, even for me. Not that I am suggesting my superiority—I gave up on The Impossible Game, remember? It is just not the usual gaming definition of “difficult.” Most of the challenge stems from having absolutely no clue of what to do while the clock is ticking and your points are slowly dwindling. The graphics are your only hint. Detailing how the game is played would outright rob prospective players of the fun and frustration they will experience playing the game, so I will share nothing. All right, I will share one thing. But the easiest one.
In the second level, you must protect your “heart” (neon-lit dots shaped like a heart situated in the middle of the screen). Some red rectangles will “attack” your heart. So, you must shoot them out by pressing the face buttons or directional buttons. If you want to shoot to the left, you must press left. If a red rectangle is traveling to the lower left part of the heart, you must press the left button three times. Sounds complicated, but it isn’t. Completing each level is mostly about accumulating points. The game punishes you for your every mistake; you’ll see your beloved points disappear right away if you enter a subsequent level utterly clueless.
Playing Kaleidoscope is equivalent to playing a collection of experimental Flash-based browser games that were made within a day. Know that you are in trouble if you don’t want to be thrown out of your comfort zone. You must not purchase this game if you are not into some quirky, totally unfamiliar games. It is a good game for those who will pursue the mystery. This is not the Basha card games; the steep learning curve here is totally worth it, not just because of its aesthetics but also because of Kaleidoscope’s ability to force you to use your brain fully.